FEATURE: Have you Herd about the trail?

Lydia Monks and her elephant
Lydia Monks and her elephant
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‘Sam Sly’ grins deviously at ‘The Singing Mermaid’ while ‘Blob’ and ‘Crab’ look on.

A few more sweeps of Lydia’s brush and ‘Mungo Monkey’ joins the party.

Pete elephant

Pete elephant

“It’s the biggest blank canvas I’ve ever worked on,” reveals Lydia Monks with a smile, as she puts the finishing touches to her beloved characters.

“It’s bigger than I thought and so the bottom is looking a bit bare - I think I’m going to have to get a bit creative with that!”

The ‘bottom’ the Sheffield illustrator is referring to is on the 5ft fibreglass elephant currently taking up residency in her Broomhill home. Lydia is one of 59 artists in the region who have been invited to design and paint an elephant as part of the Herd of Sheffield Trail which is due to stampede into the city this summer. The unique charity arts project is the brainchild of The Children’s Hospital Charity, which has united artists, businesses, groups and communities in one of the biggest art events Sheffield has ever seen. The trail of elephants will be placed at locations throughout the city on July 11, leading visitors around some of the city’s most popular sights, and hopes to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for the Sheffield charity during its ten-week run.

The charity’s project manager Rebecca Staden explains: “It is our hope the trail will reinforce Sheffield’s status as a vibrant and culturally exciting city. Other similar projects in cities across the country have resulted in a huge increase in footfall and we hope the Herd will do the same in Sheffield, while making a lasting contribution to the future of Sheffield Children’s Hospital by raising considerable funds.

Each elephant is unique – we can’t wait to see them out in the city

Project manager Rebecca Staden

“Elephants were chosen to celebrate Sheffield’s industrial heritage – 2016 marks 100 years since Lizzie the elephant was used in the steel industry to help with the war effort.”

The trail has seen some of the region’s biggest names lend their artistic skills to create the elephants, which will be auctioned off after the trail to raise even more charitable funds.

Lydia, a best-selling author and illustrator for over 20 years, confirms: “I was approached in December about getting involved and thought it sounded like great fun, so I said yes immediately.

“It was a little intimidating when the elephant arrived at my home, because it’s really big and is obviously a 3D canvas, which is different to what I’m used to. There was also no room for mishap, as we were given just two weeks to finish it, but I got dug in and really enjoyed it; it was lovely to work on something so different.

Charlie Buxton and Elmer

Charlie Buxton and Elmer

“It was also really nice to be doing something to help the Children’s Hospital Charity,” says the 45-year-old mum-of-two.

“My own daughter regularly sees one of the consultant at Sheffield Children’s Hospital so it’s great to be supporting them.”

And Lydia confesses that when the time came to part with her elephant, she felt a wrench.

“I didn’t want to give her up,” she laughs.

Pete elephant

Pete elephant

“I got quite used to having her around and I definitely felt a little sad as I was packing her trunk up to send her off. I can’t wait now to see the other designs next month.”

Sheffield artist Pete McKee has also just finished creating his bespoke elephant, Marjorie, adding his own recognisable stamp of style.

“It is a nod to all the hard-working parents of Sheffield, Rotherham and South Yorkshire,” he says of his design.

“It’s an acknowledgement of the hard graft that they endured bringing us up and the way they made a living.”

Fellow-artist and author David McKee chose to pay tribute to one of his most beloved creations with a special patchwork ‘Elmer’ elephant. And, in a nod to the event’s charitable purpose, David invited patients from Sheffield Children’s Hospital to grab a paintbrush and help him to recreate the character’s iconic patchwork. The elephant was wheeled from ward-to-ward to give as many children as possible the chance to make their contribution.

The charity’s Artfelt workshop coordinator, Laura Kennedy says: “It’s been brilliant getting the children involved, as it has provided them with much-needed distraction during their hospital visits and means they can be part of the amazing fundraising efforts to make the hospital even better.”

Project manager Rebecca Staden adds: “It’s been absolutely incredible seeing our artist’s designs come to life. Each elephant is so unique and when you see them all together they’re just spectacular. There’s a real buzz in the warehouse. The project is in aid of such a good cause and we just can’t wait to see the sculptures out in the city now!”

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The Little Herd will hit the trail alongside its big brothers and sisters this summer.

Made up of 73 calves, these adorable mini-elephants will be making their mark on indoor locations in and around Sheffield city centre.

Designed and created by hundreds of pupils, and their teachers, at 73 schools around the region, The Little Herd was a great way to get the young people of Sheffield involved in this iconic arts project.

Sponsored by Blundells, The Little Herd will be unveiled a little earlier, on June 21, and will run until September 30.

Visit Herd of Sheffield for full details of the event, downloadable trail maps and the Herd of Sheffield app.